1. Jean Goldkette And His Orchestra - Clementine (From New Orleans)
2. McKinney's Cotton Pickers - Put It There
2. Jelly Roll Morton And His Orchestra - Red Hot Pepper (Stomp)
4. Ben Pollack And His Park Central Orchestra - Futuristic Rhythm
5. Luis Russell And His Orchestra - Feelin' The Spirit
6. Red Nichols And His Five Pennies - China Boy
7. Casa Loma Orchestra - White Jazz
8. Don Redman And His Orchestra - Chant Of The Weed
9. Claude Hopkins And His Orchestra - Mush Mouth
10. Isham Jones And His Orchestra - Blue Prelude
11. Mills Blue Rhythm Band - Jazz Cocktail
12. Bennie Moten's Kansas City Orchestra - Toby
13. Ray Noble And The New Mayfair Orchestra - What A Perfect Combination
14. Chick Webb's Savoy Orchestra - Stompin' At The Savoy
15. Fletcher Henderson And His Orchestra - Down South Camp Meeting
16. Benny Carter And His Orchestra - Everybody Shuffle
17. Dorsey Brothers Orchestra - Tailspin
18. Willie Bryant And His Orchestra - The Voice Of Old Man River
19. Paul Whiteman And His Orchestra - Farewell Blues
20. Louis Armstrong And His Orchestra - Swing That Music
21. Joe Haymes And His Orchestra - Should I?
22. Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra - Organ Grinder's Swing
23. Teddy Hill And His NBC Orchestra - King Porter Stomp
24. Bunny Berigan And His Orchestra - I Can't Get Started
25. Red Norvo And His Orchestra - Russian Lullaby??
1. Benny Goodman And His Orchestra - Ridin' High
2. Bob Crosby And His Orchestra - South Rampart Street Parade
3. Edgar Hayes And His Orchestra - Meet The Band
4. Spud Murphy And His Orchestra - Trans-Continental
5. Larry Clinton And His Orchestra - My Reverie
6. Count Basie And His Orchestra - Jumpin' At The Woodside
7. Glenn Miller And His Orchestra - Moonlight Serenade
8. Erskine Hawkins And His Orchestra - Tuxedo Junction
9. Jan Savitt And His Top Hatters - 720 In The Books
10. Jack Teagarden And His Orchestra - Swingin' On The Teagarden Gate
11. Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra - Wham (Re-Bop-Boom-Bam)
12. Cab Calloway And His Orchestra - Pickin' The Cabbage
13. Duke Ellington And His Famous Orchestra - Ko-Ko
14. Earl Hines And His Orchestra - Deep Forest
15. Horace Henderson And His Orchestra - Kitty On Toast
16. Jimmy Dorsey And His Orchestra - Contrasts
17. Harlan Leonard And His Rockets - 400 Swing
18. Will Bradley And His Orchestra - Bounce Me, Brother, With A Solid Four
19. Hal McIntyre And His Orchestra - South Bayou Shuffle
20. Tommy Dorsey And His Orchestra - Well Git It!
21. Bobby Sherwood And His Orchestra - The Elk's Parade
22. Muggsy Spanier And His Orchestra - American Patrol
23. Jay McShann And His Orchestra - Sepian Bounce
24. Andy Kirk And His Clouds Of Joy - McGhee Special
25. Lucky Millinder And His Orchestra - Little John Special??
1. Charlie Barnet And His Orchestra - The Moose
2. Tiny Bradshaw And His Orchestra - Bradshaw Bounce
3. Roy Eldridge And His Orchestra - Fish Market
4. Artie Shaw And His Orchestra - Jumpin' On The Merry-Go-Round
5. Georgie Auld And His Orchestra - In The Middle
6. Boyd Raeburn And His Orchestra - A Night In Tunisia
7. Billy Eckstine And His Orchestra - Cool Breeze
8. Charlie Ventura And His Orchestra - Annie, Annie Over
10. Ralph Burns And His Orchestra - Introspection
11. George Handy And His Orchestra - The Bloos
12. Gene Krupa And His Orchestra - Disc Jockey Jump
13. Illinois Jacquet And His Orchestra - Jivin' With Jack The Bellboy
14. Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Railroad Porter's Blues
15. Lionel Hampton And His Orchestra - Midnight Sun
16. Neal Hefti And His Orchestra - Repetition
17. Claude Thornhill And His Orchestra - Yardbird Suite
18. Dizzy Gillespie And His Orchestra - Good Bait
19. Machito And His Afro-Cubans - Asia Minor
20. The Metronome All Stars - Overtime
21. Roy Porter And His Orchestra - Gassin' The Wig
22. Elliot Lawrence And His Orchestra - Elevation
23. Buddy De Franco And His Orchestra - A Bird In Igor's Yard
24. Gil Fuller And His Orchestra - Tropicana
25. Woody Herman And His Orchestra - Not Really The Blues
26. Ted Heath And His Music - Euphoria??
1. Maynard Ferguson And His Orchestra - Short Wave
2. Billy May And His Orchestra - Mayhem
3. Sauter-Finegan Orchestra - The Doodletown Fifers
4. Stan Kenton And His Orchestra - Lover Man
5. Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists - Jump For Joe
6. Louie Bellson And His Orchestra - For Europeans Only
7. Shorty Rogers - Topsy
8. Les Brown And His Band Of Renown - I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
9. Harry James And His Orchestra - The Great Lie
10. Pete Rugolo And His Orchestra - Bobbin' With Bob
11. Oscar Pettiford And His Orchestra - The Pendulum At Falcon's Lair
12. Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra - Transition
13. Buddy Rich And His Orchestra - Down For Double
14. Bill Holman And His Orchestra - Airegin
15. Cootie Williams & Rex Stewart - Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
16. Flory-Porcino Jazz Wave Orchestra - An Occasional Man
17. The Herb Pomeroy Orchestra - Theme For Terry
18. The Nat Pierce Orchestra - 7th Avenue Express
19. Sal Salvador And His Orchestra - Deep Down
20. Mercer Ellington And His Orchestra - Frolic Sam
21. Buddy Johnson And His Orchestra - Go Ahead And Rock
22. Gil Evans And His Orchestra - Joy Spring
23. Johnny Richards And His Orchestra - Run Wild
24. Terry Gibbs Dream Band - The Song Is You
25. Gerry Mulligan And The Concert Jazz Band - Black Nightgown
What is a "big band"? You might think that the term is self-explanatory but several of the bands in this compilation were not particularly large. For example, McKinney's Cotton Pickers - represented here by the track Put It There - comprised only eleven musicians, while the orchestras of Jelly Roll Morton and Luis Russell contained only ten players - the same number as the early Duke Ellington Orchestra. In later big bands, the personnels swelled to 20 or more - often to ensure that the bands could be heard in large ballrooms. I am glad to hear a track here from the neglected Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists but they only consisted of ten men.
Anyone looking for a history of big bands will be disappointed - not least because the selection starts in 1927, omitting such influential bands and bandleaders as James Reese Europe, the California Ramblers, and Art Hickman. The inclusion of only five tracks from the 1920s tends to give an incomplete picture of the history of big bands. The sleeve-note says that Fletcher Henderson's heyday was in the early 1930s (and his work is illustrated by a 1934 recording) but he was already extremely successful in the twenties.
The selection also ends at 1960 - no doubt for copyright reasons - so the big-band story is left incomplete. Buddy Rich is represented by his 1956 recording of Down For Double but this leaves out the impetus that Buddy's new band gave to the big-band movement in the 1960s. Count Basie is only represented by Jumpin' At The Woodside from 1938, ignoring the stimulation provided by such albums as The Atomic Mr Basie album in 1957.
However, let us look at the positive aspects of this collection, which are many. It supplies representative items by many of the best big bands, including such classics as Louis Armstrong's Swing That Music, Gene Krupa's Disc Jockey Jump, and Sauter-Finegan's Doodletown Fifers. Big bands are often regarded as jazz ensembles but the early tracks here suggest how big bands developed from dance bands, often by adding jazz soloists capable of playing "hot" solos. The very first track - by Jean Goldkette And His Orchestra - has solos by Bix Beiderbecke and Joe Venuti.
Perhaps the biggest band of all was that of Paul Whiteman, although the track here (Farewell Blues) dates from 1935, long after his experiments with "orchestral jazz", although it includes solos by Frankie Trumbauer and Charlie Teagarden. Some of the other bands on this first CD laid down patterns which were subsequently followed by many other arrangers. For example, Don Redman's Chant Of The Weed typifies his setting of reeds against brass, while Benny Carter's arrangement of his composition Jazz Cocktail for the Mills Blue Rhythm Band (mistakenly listed on the sleeve as "Mills Blues Rhythm Band") illustrates his tight arranging for the saxophone section.
One unfortunate outcome of the influence of certain arrangers was that some bands followed their innovations slavishly - for instance, lumping the sax or brass together. One might think that a big band should have more leeway for adventurous arrangements than a small group, simply because of the larger number of musicians at an arranger's disposal. Yet many big bands have created stodgy sounds by using sections to play closely together instead of dividing the musicians up into separate entities. Duke Ellington was one of the few bandleaders who showed a different way of working. He is represented by Ko-Ko on the second disc. This is one his many masterpieces and, although it uses section work, it creates a variety of timbres out of the means at Duke's disposal. It contrasts the trombone sounds of Juan Tizol and Tricky Sam Nanton, and uses Ellington's piano and Jimmy Blanton's double bass to comment on the action.
Some bands managed to establish their own unique sound - like Bob Crosby's Orchestra, which played a biggish-band version of Dixieland jazz. Their recording of South Rampart Street Parade uses only 13 musicians to give the effect of a Dixieland small group, propelled by Ray Bauduc's rousing drums.
Although Dizzy Gillespie solos in Cab Calloway's Pickin' The Cabbage and Charlie Parker appears in Jay McShann's Sepian Blounce, there is little hint on the second CD of the bebop to come. In fact the performances are still mostly in the conventional swing idiom. The third CD heralds the arrival of bebop, with pianist Dodo Marmarosa featured in Charlie Barnet's The Moose (written and arranged by Ralph Burns) and Boyd Raeburn's orchestra playing an arrangement by Dizzy Gillespie of his own A Night in Tunisia. One of Boyd Raeburn's arrangers was George Handy, whose The Bloos is a strange mixture of changing tempos, classical influences and the blues. It is noticeable that, with the advent of bebop, many of the orchestras got louder and more assertive. Bands led by such musicians as Gene Krupa and Buddy DeFranco illustrate a common tendency of big bands: their formation to showcase a particular instrumentalist.
The fourth CD introduces a new sound: that of America's West Coast, with a band led by Maynard Ferguson - yet another example of a big band led by someone who had made their name in other people's bands. The West Coast feel is fairly clearly the work of arranger Shorty Rogers. Billy May takes us briefly back to traditional big-band arranging but the combination of two master-arrangers (Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan) introduces a whole new sound world. Kenny Graham's Afro-Cubists also bring new sounds, foreshadowing the increasing fusion between jazz and other musics from all corners of the world.
Several of the other bands on this final CD were studio ensembles, such as those led by Pete Rugulo, Buddy Rich, and Bill Holman in the 1950s. Gil Evans is another bandleader whose work was often confined to the studio. This produced the famous "Birth of the Cool" recordings and the sessions with Miles Davis. Gil's version of Joy Spring allows us to hear Gil soloing at the piano in an arrangement which has some of the individuality that he brought to big-band arranging. His distinctive touch is also audible in his arrangement of Yardbird Suite for Claude Thornhill (on CD3). Sun Ra is another individualist, as you can hear in Transition. The set ends with Gerry Mulligan's Concert Band - another small-sized big band (13 musicians), following the economical tradition of much of Mulligan's work.
This collection - at a very reasonable price - is useful in providing examples of 100 different big bands, although it reinforces my belief that too many big bands follow conventional models instead of laying down their own path and following it.